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Jesus Predicts His Death June 2, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 16:21-28.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus begins to privately instruct His disciples, stating that He will obey a divine imperative to:

  • go to Jerusalem
  • be tried by the orthodox religious leaders of Israel
  • be murdered
  • be raised up in three days.

Peter responds by vehemently asserting that this divine imperative is incompatible with his conception of the Messiah.

Jesus is cognizant of Satan’s attempt to work through Peter to ensnare Him; thus, He rebukes Satan.

He then asserts that those who come to Him must:

  • deny that they have the capacity to save themselves
  • be willing to endure persecution for His sake.

Indeed, those who live only to save their physical lives will lose their spiritual souls, but those who are willing to lose their physical lives will save their spiritual souls. This stems from the fact that He is about to reward – and judge – all men according to their deeds.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Jesus stresses the centrality of suffering in the Christian life. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

It is good for us all to see this point clearly. We must not conceal from ourselves that true Christianity brings with it a daily cross in this life, while it offers us a crown of glory in the life to come. The self must be crucified daily; the devil must be resisted daily; the world must be overcome daily. There is a war to be waged, and a battle to be fought.

This raises the following question: as believers, can we actually crucify ourselves on a daily basis? We occasionally deny ourselves, e.g. by making a decision to forgo a diversion of some sort. Yet it is difficult – if not impossible – to consistently forgo such diversions. How can we resolve this tension in our relationship with God? One thought is that we should not expect to live perfectly on a daily basis. Another thought is that at the end of each day, we should ask: what have I thought, spoken and/or done today to please God? Instead of focusing on the negative – denial of self – perhaps we should focus on the positive – indulgence of God.

The Parable of the Weeds Explained April 21, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 13:36-43.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus explicates the Parable of the Weeds. In particular, He states that the:

  • sower represents Him
  • good seed represent the children of His kingdom
  • field represents the world
  • weeds represent the children of the devil.

He also states that the children of His kingdom must not judge the children of the devil before the Second Coming – as that is God’s prerogative. Indeed, at that time, He will:

  • place all of the children of the devil in eternal hell
  • enable the children of His kingdom to dwell with Him.

Thoughts: The Parable of the Weeds and Jesus’ explication of it in this passage are actually on separate pages in my Bible. When I read that parable, I assumed that Jesus had not explicated it to His disciples; thus, I pondered it for quite some time. I leveraged my understanding of similar parables to grasp the gist of it, yet two points baffled me:

  • it was evident that the weeds represented unbelievers, yet I wondered: were these unbelievers in the visible church, or unbelievers in general?
  • did the act of weeding represent an attempt to purge the visible church of unbelievers, or an attempt to proclaim God’s judgment on unbelievers in general before the Second Coming?

The summary that I have provided above is drawn from John MacArthur’s sermon on this passage. Yet Ryle offers some contrasting thoughts on these two points:

The visible church is pictured as a mixed body: it is a vast “field” in which “wheat” and “weeds” grow side by side (verses 24-26). We must expect to find believers and unbelievers, converted and unconverted, “the sons of the kingdom” and “the sons of the evil one” (verses 38-39), all mingled together in every congregation of baptized people.

Thus, I am unsure as to the correct interpretation of these two points. I hope to meet Ryle in the next life and hear his response to the thoughts expressed by MacArthur in his sermon.

The Temptation of Jesus October 27, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 4:1-11.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus fasts for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. Satan then attempts to tempt Him by:

  • encouraging Him to turn stones into bread – since He is the omnipotent Son of God
  • encouraging Him to leap from the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem – since Psalm 91:11-12 states that He can rely on God to protect Him
  • offering Him the entirety of worldly wealth – if He will worship him.

Yet Jesus rejects these temptations by citing the following passages from Scripture:

  • Deuteronomy 8:3 – where God asserts that man obtains true life from His words
  • Deuteronomy 6:16 – where God warns the Jews in the desert against testing Him
  • Deuteronomy 6:13 – where God warns the Jews in the desert against idolatry.

At this point, Satan withdraws to plan further assaults on Jesus, while angels arrive to refresh Him.

Thoughts: This is a challenging passage, as it forces us to assess the truth of the following statements:

  • since Christ is fully human, it is possible for Him to sin
  • since Christ is fully divine, it is not possible for Him to sin.

After contemplating this passage, I think that as believers, we readily accept at least certain aspects of the humanity of Christ. For example, we have little difficulty assuming that His earthly sojourn was marked by:

  • hunger
  • thirst
  • physical pain
  • mental anguish.

Yet this passage – and His struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane – raises the following question: was it possible for Christ to commit a sin during His earthly sojourn? If not, then does this passage depict a legitimate struggle between Christ and Satan? Perhaps this passage inspired numerous heresies that attempted to explain it. If so, then we need wisdom and strength from the Holy Spirit to determine what God is saying to us in this passage and how we should respond to Him in light of it.

Here, we see that Christ responds to the temptations of Satan by quoting from the Old Testament. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

It will do us no good if it only lies still in our houses. We must be actually familiar with its contents, and have its texts stored in our memories and minds.
Knowledge of the Bible never comes by intuition; it can only be got by hard, regular, daily, attentive, wakeful reading. Do we grudge the time and trouble this will cost us? If we do we are not yet fit for the kingdom of God.

This passage spurred me to consider my responses to temptations. In those instances, I find that I recite statements that align with specific Biblical passages – i.e. while I do not quote from Scripture, my thought reflects the spirit of specific passages. Now I do wonder if I should quote from Scripture in those instances. Perhaps such quotations would constitute a stronger response to Satan when he tempts me, as that would demonstrate the firmness of my devotion to God and His words.

Satan’s Doom March 9, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 20:7-10.

Summary: In this passage, Satan is released from the Abyss. He then gathers the nations for a climactic battle against all believers. They place believers in a quandary – yet God abruptly destroys them with fire. Satan is then thrown into the lake of fire – joining the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth in their eternal torment.

Thoughts: While I believe that many of the events that are described in the preceding chapters of this book have already occurred, I also believe that the events that are described in this passage will occur at the end of time. Thus, my curiosity is piqued regarding the identity of “the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog.” How will Satan influence them to oppose God and His people? Will all believers migrate to a single location at some point in the future – or will they be attacked wherever they reside? How will God deliver them from their enemies in their hour of need? Will the events that are described in this passage occur in this generation? In any event, believers can be encouraged by this fact – God fights for them. Moreover, He will finally defeat Satan and deliver them from his power.

The Thousand Years March 5, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 20:1-6.

Summary: In this passage, John observes an angel holding a chain and the key to the Abyss. This angel binds Satan, throws him into the Abyss and seals it for a thousand years. John also observes Christian martyrs – in particular, those who refused to worship the beast out of the sea. They reign with Christ during the imprisonment of Satan in the Abyss. Indeed, they have overcome both physical and spiritual death; now, they will serve God.

Thoughts: This passage may indicate that Christian martyrs will receive greater rewards in the next life than other believers. While the concept of a heavenly hierarchy is debatable, I certainly hope that if a heavenly hierarchy exists, then martyrs would be placed above other believers. I believe that those who suffer in a special way for the name of Christ should receive a special reward, as they have consciously decided to hold to His testimony – while overcoming the persistent temptation to commit apostasy and embrace the pleasures of this world. I also believe that if a heavenly hierarchy exists, then Christians who are not martyred will not experience feelings of resentment in the next life – as they will be content with their heavenly rewards. If any readers have some thoughts on this point, feel free to share them as a comment.

To Elders and Young Men June 29, 2014

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Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 5:1-11.

Summary: Peter begins by exhorting pastors to feed Christ’s followers; he is qualified to make this exhortation, as he:

  • is also a minister of the Gospel message
  • was an eyewitness of Christ’s sufferings
  • will receive a rich inheritance at Christ’s Second Coming.

They should not:

  • be reluctant to feed Christ’s followers
  • exercise their authority in a tyrannical fashion.

Instead, they should:

  • choose to obey their calling
  • take delight in feeding Christ’s followers
  • be a pattern with which Christ’s followers will stamp their spirits.

In this way, they will be kings at Christ’s Second Coming.

Peter then exhorts younger believers to respect and obey their pastors; he also exhorts all believers to work hard to be the lowest. To support the latter point, he quotes from Proverbs 3:34, where it is stated that while God singles out those who flatter themselves as His enemies, He shows His divine favor to those who abase themselves. Thus, they should abase themselves before God – who is all-powerful – and He will refresh them in His wisely appointed time. Moreover, they should lay their desires and cares before God, since He orders everything for their benefit.

Now Peter exhorts his readers to be sober-minded and watchful, since Satan – who is strong, diligent and cruel – wants to destroy their souls. They must not allow Satan to destroy their souls; they must take hold of God’s promises. Moreover, they should be encouraged by the fact that Satan wants to destroy the souls of all believers; thus, they are not being singled out for temptation.

Peter then prays that God, who:

  • is the spring of divine favor
  • has united them to Christ
  • allowed them to behold and enjoy Him forever

would:

  • enable them to progress toward perfection
  • allow them to grow in their graces
  • support them against Satan’s attacks
  • help them to fix on the sure foundation of Christ.

Peter concludes by praising God, stating that He has everlasting authority and royal sovereignty.

Thoughts: In verse 8, Peter states that Satan wants to destroy the souls of believers. Leighton offers some warnings on this point:

He usually hides himself and lies hidden until he attacks us when we are least expecting it…He studies our nature and attacks with suitable temptations. He knows our bias toward lust and worldly ways and pride…He waits for his opportunity and then pounces with a fierce assault…He goes around and spots their weak points and then attacks them where they are least able to resist.

I have found that Satan often attacks me after I experience a “spiritual high,” e.g. after I have strengthened and encouraged a new believer. Before each of those attacks, I was confident that I was making progress in my spiritual walk; some of those attacks caused me to stumble, though. Thus, this passage is a helpful reminder of the importance of being sober-minded. Also, I should stress that I need the help of the Holy Spirit when repelling the assaults of Satan, as Satan preys on my inherent sloth and complacency. Lastly, I should stress that I have achieved some victories over Satan in these battles, which is a great encouragement in this lifelong struggle.

In verse 10, Peter reminds his readers that God has called them to share in an awesome inheritance that He has prepared for them in heaven. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

Notwithstanding all the mercies multiplied upon us, where are our praises, our songs of deliverance, our ascribing glory and power to our God who has gone before us with loving-kindness and tender mercies? He has removed the strokes of his hand and made cities and villages populated again that were left desolate of inhabitants. [This was most probably written in 1653. The years 1652 and 1653 were remarkable for fine weather and plentiful harvests; and under Cromwell the country was enjoying a security and peace it had never known before and was already beginning to recover from the desolating influences of sword, pestilence and famine. – Editor’s note.]

In light of the pestilence and other above-mentioned troubles, Leighton and his readers had many reasons to praise God. I am eager to meet Leighton’s readers in the next life and see how they responded to Leighton’s challenge. Did they offer genuine praise to God in light of His external blessings? Did they later fall into complacency after experiencing His blessings for a long stretch of time? Did they endure subsequent “sword, pestilence and famine” and praise God in the midst of those difficulties? Leighton offers many challenges in his commentary, and hopefully his readers responded positively to them. On a somewhat-related note, it would be neat to meet other believers in the next life who, while not belonging to the set of Leighton’s contemporaries, read his commentary and were strengthened by his exhortations.

The Man of Lawlessness May 15, 2013

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Here are my thoughts on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

Summary: Paul begins by entreating the Thessalonians – as they have set a high value on the coming of Christ, when He will gather them to Himself – to be on their guard against any:

  • false prophecy
  • false pretext
  • spurious writing using his name

which states that the Lord’s day is at hand. They must not assume that the joyful day of redemption is imminent; instead, that day will not come until a general apostasy occurs in the visible church and Satan’s chief follower holds supreme power in the church. Indeed, the Antichrist will claim for himself those things that belong to God; moreover, he will oppose Christ under the very name of Christ and he will claim to rule as God Himself.

Now Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he had warned them about the rule of the Antichrist and the impending devastation of the church. Yet the Antichrist will not hold supreme power in the church until Christ has enlightened the whole world with His Gospel – allowing the godlessness of men to be fully demonstrated by their rejection of His grace. In the meantime Satan will carry on a secret and clandestine war; now Paul comforts the Thessalonians by asserting that God will only allow the Antichrist to hold supreme power in the church for a limited period. At that point, the Antichrist will be reduced to nothing by the Word and the light of Christ’s presence. While the Antichrist holds supreme power in the church, he will oppose Christ’s kingdom with false teaching and fake miracles. In this way Satan will defeat the wicked, who will not use their minds to love the Gospel – and so they perish. Thus, God has appointed the wicked for destruction – and so He blinds them. Paul concludes by asserting that God will punish everyone who has a voluntary inclination to evil – and ignored the guidance that would have led them to Him.

Thoughts: In verses 1 and 2, we see that Paul warns the Thessalonians to not believe any reports that the second coming of Christ was imminent. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

Paul added, or letter supposed to have come from us, evidence that this impudence has a long history – that of using the names of great people. God’s grace toward us is the more wonderful in that while Paul’s name was used in spurious writings, his writings have nevertheless been preserved even to our times. This could not have taken place accidentally or as the effect of mere human industry if God himself had not by his power restrained Satan and all his ministers.

I am curious as to the number of extant “false Pauline epistles” at that time; this passage implies that at least one “false Pauline epistle” was being circulated in that part of the world. One must wonder if these false letters were quite similar to the genuine epistles that I have been strolling through. Did these letters include a well-designed blend of pure and impure doctrines? Did the authors of these letters subtly include false instructions such as, “now, brothers, I want you to know that the Lord himself has revealed to me that His Day will occur in the next year?” If so, I wonder how believers at that time were able to preserve the genuine epistles while rejecting the false epistles.

In this passage, Paul discusses the role of the Antichrist in sparking a general apostasy within the body of Christ. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 4:

Everyone who has learned from Scripture what things especially belong to God will have no great difficulty in recognizing the Antichrist as he observes the claims of the Pope, even if he is only a ten-year-old boy…He contrives means of attaining salvation that are completely at variance with the teaching of the Gospel; in short, he does not hesitate to change the whole of religion for his own pleasure. When he robs God of his honor in this way, the Pope leaves God with an empty title of deity, while he transfers all divine power to himself.

Clearly Calvin had a rather dim view of the Catholic Church, and we know how the Protestant Reformation was spurred by his opposition to Catholicism. Now I wonder if Catholics could read this passage and view Calvin himself as the Antichrist; from their perspective, could he have been the leader of an apostasy within their church? Could they perceive Calvin as the promulgator of false teaching – and even as an opponent of Christ? I suppose the next life will reveal the correctness (or lack thereof) of Calvin’s theory that the Pope is the Antichrist.

Paul and the False Apostles February 11, 2012

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Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 11:1-15.

Summary: Paul begins by stating that he knows that the Corinthians will allow him to engage in some self-vindication. Indeed, the Corinthians should bear with him, since he is jealous for them with a jealousy that God possesses, as he is the author of their marriage to Christ; he desires to present them to Christ as a glorious church at His second coming. Yet he fears that just as Satan seduced Eve, their minds might be corrupted and turned from their undivided devotion to Christ. The Corinthians should also bear with him since they bear with false teachers who

  • present someone other than Jesus as “the One” who can deliver them from sin
  • attempt to prove this by asserting that they have received a spirit other than the Holy Spirit.

In addition, the Corinthians should bear with Paul since he is on par with the chief apostles. Although he does not speak Greek as a native speaker, he possesses the Gospel; indeed, they are fully aware that he is a genuine apostle. He then asks if his opponents discredit his apostleship by focusing on his renunciation of the support that the Corinthians owed him – which was done for their good. In fact, he received his rightful stipend from the Macedonians so that he could minister to the Corinthians. When he was in Corinth, he was not torpid against anyone, as the Macedonians added to his income as a tentmaker; moreover, he is determined to continue this course of action. By the veracity of Christ in him, he declares that nobody in southern Greece will hinder his boasting in this regard. This does not stem from a lack of love for them; God knows his heart for them.

Paul then notes that he wants to prevent his opponents from being able to charge him with preaching the Gospel for profit; he wants them to join him in preaching without the desire for financial gain. This stems from the fact that his opponents are:

  • those who falsely claim to be apostles
  • workmen who use trickery
  • those who falsely claim to be servants of Christ.

This should be no surprise, as Satan presents himself as a bright and pure angel. Paul concludes by inferring that the false teachers – who actually promote Satan’s kingdom – will pretend to advocate God’s truth; yet God will judge their works.

Thoughts: In verse 5, we see that Paul knew that he was on par with the chief apostles. Hodge offers some helpful thoughts on this point:

In no one respect had he fallen short or was he left behind by the chief apostles; neither in gifts, nor in labors, nor in success had any of them been more highly favored, nor more clearly authenticated as the messengers of Christ…Therefore, the argument that the Reformers derived from this passage against the primacy of Peter is perfectly legitimate. Paul was Peter’s equal in every respect and so far from being under his authority that he not only refused to follow his example, but reproved him to his face (Galatians 2:11).

This raises the following questions concerning the nature of Paul’s relationship with the other apostles, especially Peter, James and John. Was Paul constantly reminded of the supposed supremacy of the other apostles, and if so, did he carry out his apostolic duties with a chip on his shoulder? How often did Paul see the other apostles in the course of his missionary travels? The Bible records some of Paul’s encounters with the other apostles, especially his above-mentioned conflict with Peter in Galatians 2; I am definitely eager to interview the apostles about their earthly interactions when I get to heaven.

In verse 9, we see that although Paul had difficulty supporting himself as a tentmaker, several believers from Macedonia came to Corinth to supply what he was lacking. We know from 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 that the Macedonian believers were impoverished, as they had suffered from the ravages of war for generations on end. Now I wonder if Paul wrote letters to the Macedonian churches that have been lost to the sands of time. It would be interesting to learn of the existence – and contents – of “The Epistle of Paul to the Macedonians.” Based on what we know of the Macedonian church, my conjecture is that this hypothetical letter would have been rather positive, as Paul would have praised them for their generosity in spite of their poverty. It is likely, though, that the Macedonian church would have been beset by sinfulness and temptations, so rebukes and corrections would probably have appeared in such a letter. It should be reiterated, though, that the Bible – as it stands – is a sufficient revelation of God; thus, this hypothetical letter would mainly be interesting from a historical standpoint.

Forgiveness for the Sinner November 19, 2011

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Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 2:5-11.

Summary: Paul begins by noting that although his previous letter to the Corinthians had been written with sorrow, their (formerly) incestuous brother – who played a major role in causing that sorrow – had not offended him personally; also, he had only offended some of them. In fact, their punishment of him was sufficient. Paul then encourages the Corinthians to forgive and comfort this brother – so that he will not be driven to despair (and destroyed in the process). To this end, he exhorts them to publicly assure this brother of their love for him. Now in his previous letter, Paul had instructed the Corinthians on how to deal with this brother in order to:

  • test their integrity
  • see if they would submit to his legitimate authority over them.

He is ready to join them in forgiving this brother, and his act of forgiveness occurs in the presence of Christ. Paul concludes by noting that his act of forgiveness stems from his desire to keep Satan from advancing his cause by destroying this brother – as Satan constantly endeavors to destroy believers.

Thoughts: Reading this passage got me thinking about church discipline and how it should be exercised in a modern-day church. Now let’s assume that as a church member, you are positive that a fellow church member is committing a particular sin on a regular basis (for now, we can assume that a brother, and not a sister, is in error here). Here are some thoughts on how you could address that situation.

First, I would pray (seriously) about this issue and wrestle with the following questions: is that brother actually sinning, or am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Also, what would be the best way for me to approach him about this issue? I would also talk with other trusted believers in our church; are they aware of his sinful actions and do they concur with your assessment of his behavior? If so, how would they approach him about this matter?

Then, I would approach the brother in question. Ideally we would meet in a location where he would be at ease. I would cut to the chase and tell him about his sinful behavior that I – and other church members – have noticed. Along with making an appeal for him to change his ways, I would tell him about his strengths that I – and other church members – have noticed. This stems from my belief that when constructive criticism has to be given, the message is more easily conveyed by also noting what the subject of the criticism is doing well.

Now if the brother in question changes their ways after that meeting, that would be great. Otherwise, I would gather two or three trusted believers from our church to talk with that brother about his sinful behavior. Ideally these trusted believers would agree on the need for corrective action – while each of them would present a unique perspective on the issue at hand. In this way, we would increase our chances of being able to communicate our concerns to that brother.

Then, if the brother in question changes their ways after this meeting, that would be great. Otherwise, I would gather our church body – including that brother – and discuss his sinful behavior. Now at this stage of the problem, I am utterly clueless as to how to act properly – apart from obeying the general principle of acting in love. Indeed, the concept of a church-wide meeting to address a particular member’s sinfulness sounds rather unpleasant.

If the brother in question changes their ways after that meeting, that would be great. Otherwise, I suppose that he would have to be put out of our church for some time. Ideally I – and other church members – would continue to meet with him on an individual basis, mainly to remind him of our love for him and our desire for him to remain in the Lord.

Any thoughts on these actions would be welcome.